The Reluctant Give Giving Guide

It’s about that time that I turn slightly green, not with envy but
more that Grinchly green hue. Why? Not because I’m a true
Grinch but because of everyone’s rush – namely the retailers – to
get to Christmas as soon as possible, we’ve seemed to have
bypassed Thanksgiving as an afterthought. Thanksgiving was the
holiday in our family that was hosted by the Tatsumoto clan so it
was something I looked forward to every year. And since I grew up
Buddhist, Christmas didn’t have the religious significance most of
America associates with the holiday. In the rush to fatten their
registers, retailers even have Christmas leap frogging Halloween.
But in the spirit of the season, I’ll give in and make merry…

Smoke Two Joints…

Because I work for the Federal Government, both recreational and
medical use of marijuana is still prohibited and we do have random
urine drug screening, sometimes several times a year though I’m
not worried at all as the only smoking I do is with food including
various proteins, carbohydrates and even fat. Though my latest
contraption is on a smaller scale. Namely to smoke various raw
seafood and cocktails. It’s basically a handheld smoking gun that’s
powered by two AA batteries. The smoke is pumped into a sealed
box or pan or under a glass cloche and simply left to sit for a
minute or so to give the seafood or cocktail a light “kiss” of
smoke. And because it’s only about the size of a medium
flashlight, you can also bring it to parties over the holidays to
wow the host with your mixology skills.

Grub Hub Anyone

No, I’m not suggesting that you order food from a restaurant to
be delivered to your host’s home. In fact, I don’t even endorse
having it delivered to your home even if you’re the host – if you
do purchase food from a restaurant to serve to your guests, at least
“doll” it up a little to make it appear you put some effort into
feeding your guests. What I am endorsing is transport systems that
take your culinary creation from point “A” to point “B” that keeps
cold foods cold and hot foods hot. You can find various insulated
food carriers that can transport up to two 13” x 9” pans to your
destination keeping your creation hot or at the very least, very
warm. Some also include gel packs that can be microwaved for
additional heating capacity. These same insulated carriers can also
transport cold food items keeping them chilled and if they include
the gel packs, the packs can be frozen for prolonged cooling
capacity.

At our recent workplace Thanksgiving potluck lunch, the Mrs.
suggested I make my Asian Sweet Rice Dressing which basically is
sweet rice cooked with bamboo shoots, rehydrated shiitake, water
chestnuts, chestnuts and lup cheong with some oyster sauce, shoyu
and five spice powder. I did all of my chopping the night before
and pre-soaked the sweet rice overnight so that all I had to do was
mix everything together, place it in my trusty Tiger MiCom
multicooker and hit the start button.

Of course, since we normally leave the house about 5:45am and
the first lunch doesn’t start until 11:00am lasting until 2:30pm,
that would mean that the rice dressing would be sitting at room
temperature from a little over 5 hours to almost 9 hours. That’s
potentially a lot of time sitting in the “danger zone”. The danger
zone? Yes, the danger zone which is between 40 degrees Fahrenheit
which is just above refrigerator temperature to 140 degrees
Fahrenheit which is the maximum temperature most water heaters
can be set to. As a rule of thumb, food should not remain in the
danger zone for more than 4 hours. Some public health
nutritionists actually set a tighter danger zone for just 2 hours so
while my rice dressing might not pose a culinary risk for the first
set of luncher’s, those who start lunch after 12pm are playing
culinary roulette. Of course, I could simply leave the rice dressing
in the cooker and set it to warm but my workplace lunch room isn’
t equipped with very many electrical outlets. Therefore, I simply
transferred my rice dressing to my Tiger Thermal Magic Cooker
which is simply a stainless-steel cooking vessel placed inside of a
dual walled, vacuum sealed outer container that keeps food very
hot for extended periods as the vacuum sealed outer chamber
reduces heat loss to a minimum. Therefore, my Asian Sweet Rice
Dressing remained hot until the last of my co-workers sampled
lunch.

Entertaining Should be Fun!

Most of all, entertaining whether you’re the host or the guest
should be fun. You shouldn’t have to stress over your culinary
creation as the holidays are mainly about people whether it’s
connecting or re-connecting with acquaintances with food and
drink being secondary. Of course, if you feel you have to roast
that perfect A-5 Wagyu rib roast served with the perfect black
truffle infused Perigueux sauce or that perfect Duck a l’Orange,
then you’re self-inflicting your own holiday stress.
And I’ve learned that even if you pull off culinary perfection, some
diners may not prefer their beef medium-rare or well done. Some
may not like raw seafood, some avoid all seafood and in my own
personal world, I have two good friends who have very severe shell
fish allergies.

For starters, in the 50th, raw seafood always has a place on anyone’
s tablet whether it’s sashimi or poke’. And while most poke’ is
purchased, it also is simple to prepare and can be made well before
leave the house or the guests arrive. For sashimi, I simply adorn the
bottom of the serving plate with either finely julienne cabbage or
daikon “strings” sliced from a mandolin. They help to maintain the
moisture level of the sliced fish and once it’s plated, I wrap with
cellophane to maintain the moisture in the sliced fish.

Salad courses also keep the stress level low as most of the
ingredients can be prepared well before party time such as salad
Niçoise, Panzanella or whole grain salads. They simply need to be
transported in a cool travel vessel (soft sided cooler) or kept in the
refrigerator prior to service (if you’re the host).

Finally, for proteins I favor braising poultry, pork or beef as the
timing between dish completion and service isn’t critical at all. I
can also easily transport braised dishes in my Tiger Thermal Magic
Cooker… sometimes I simply leave it the cooking vessel especially
if it’s cast iron as cast iron Dutch ovens maintain heat quite nicely
and Le Creuset and Staub also make decorative tomato and
pumpkin shaped cooking vessels.

For Those not Culinarily Inclined

We do have several acquaintances who don’t cook nor do they
pretend to be cooks. In this case, a nice hostess gift, floral
arrangement or bottle of Champagne is always welcome at most
households. Especially Champagne but if you feel the pocket pinch
for the real McCoy, simply purchase any domestic Rose sparkler for
this cocktail I first highlighted about 3 years ago in the Hawaii
Herald.

The inspiration for this cocktail comes from the French 75 which
combines two of my favorite libations, Champagne and gin.
Though this libation contains no gin, I created my Hawaii twist to
the French 75 and wanted to originally call it the Hawaii 5-0 but I’
m pretty sure that the name is copyrighted, so since my cocktail
has two Hawaii based libations, Kai vodka and Lokelani Rose
sparkling wine and it’s garnished with the state flower, I call it the
Hawaii 2.5. Point five because the Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup
is actually made Down Under.

The Hawaii 2.5

1 bottle of chilled Maui Wine Lokelani Rose sparkling wine
6 Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup hibiscus buds
1 oz ginger liqueur
2 oz lychee liqueur
3 oz Kai lychee vodka

Mix the ginger & litchi liqueurs and the vodka then pour 1 ounce
of the mixture into Champagne flutes. Place one hibiscus flower in
the flute and top off with 4 ounces of Lokelani Rose sparkling
wine.
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